Hundreds of thousands of children are among two million refugees who have fled Ukraine looking for safety after Russia’s invasion of its neighbor began two weeks ago.
Women and children have been forced to leave their fathers and brothers behind after the Ukrainian government enforced martial law, banning all-male citizens 18-60 years old from leaving the country, according to the State Border Guard.
Most of those who have fled have gone to Poland, to Ukraine’s west, with large numbers also entering Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia — the journey, in many cases, lasting several days.
They arrive with next to nothing.
To help alleviate some of the stress and emotions attached to fleeing Ukraine, strangers in Polish communities are helping strangers get settled with basic necessities in a place that may not feel anything like home.
A light at the end of the tunnel
That compassion greets the refugees the moment they step off their train onto the platform at the Przemyśl station.
Strollers, carriers, jackets, toys, stuffed animals, diapers, even walkers for the elderly, have filled the area alongside the railway.
Everything is free.
Volunteers told CNN the amount of donations received from people in Poland was overwhelming. The generosity appears to be spread largely by word of mouth.
Przemyśl is the first train stop for refugees who enter Poland via the Medyka border crossing. Those who walk into the country have also been greeted by strollers, car seats, clothing and diapers.
The volunteer effort has become more organized over the past week. Dozens of volunteers with yellow vests, speaking multiple languages, are helping the refugees any way they can. They are now getting assistance from people from other European nations.
And help isn’t just available in the form of physical supplies — some people have been holding up signs, offering rides to different places across Europe and volunteers are helping refugees find a place to stay — be it a school gymnasium or families who have offered to take in women and children.
“What we fear is a second wave of persons who have a good deal less resources and connections and who will be much more vulnerable,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned.